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Limited Editions from Special Collections

An Exhibition of Limited Editions in the Laurence McKinley Gould Library on the Occasion of the Inauguration of Robert A. Oden Jr. as the Tenth President of Carleton College, 2002

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Printing with a handpress remained virtually unchanged in the three centuries following the appearance of the Gutenberg Bible in the 1450s. In the nineteenth century, however, several advances in printing technology brought about the mechanization of the industry and led to the ever-increasing mass production of books and other printed materials. The availability of inexpensive books helped to foster the rise in literacy and the spread of democracy, but there was at the same time a marked decrease in the quality of printed materials.

In the second half of the nineteenth century critics began to look back to the early years of printing to reestablish the essential relatinship between the printer and his craft. The first person of note to produce books of quality once again was William Morris (1834-96), who founded the Kelmscott Press in 1890. Morris set standards which few could attain but which in time many emulated.

The owners of the private presses established after the Kelmscott Press were, like Morris, interested primarily in the beauty and quality of their books rather than in financial gain, yet the principles which guided their work and the emphasis they placed on good design soon had an impact on commercial publishers, an impact which continues to this day.


Professor Roger Paas
Department of German
Guest Curator